Summer is fast approaching, and with it, a bounty of fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables. As they age, many adults begin to eat foods that are less healthy. Deteriorating taste buds and the loss of our sense of smell can make many older adults reach for processed foods high in fat, sugar, and salt. Limited incomes can cause older adults to make judgments about whether to buy less expensive, high-calorie foods or their medications. Chronic health conditions may make shopping a hardship. A poor diet can worsen an older adult’s existing health problems, or make them vulnerable to new ones, such as diabetes, and heart disease.
Make it your personal goal this summer to find affordable, convenient ways to get your diet back on track for the better. Summer is a great time to reintroduce yourself to the healthy and delicious fruits and vegetables because they’re at their peak of freshness. These foods are high in vitamins and minerals and naturally low in fat, sugar, and sodium. Here’s how you can get started incorporating them into your daily diet:
Identify the issues and pick the easiest to change first: Changing your eating habits starts with acknowledging what behaviors could be problematic. Do you purchase sodium and preservative-laden frozen meals because your activities are restricted or you are tired later in the day? Do you eat lots of snacks that are high in sodium? Do you eat one large meal a day? Do you have a difficult time getting out of the house? Make a list and pick the one issue you change more easily. For example, try picking a time when you have more energy (such as morning) to get the shopping done and take care of the bulk of your meal preparation. Or, talk with neighbors and carpool to the store together.
Shop at farmers’ markets: Sometimes it’s lack of inspiration that sends us reaching for the local pizza place’s take-out menu. Get fresh food on the brain by strolling through a farmer’s market. See what’s in season at the moment, and even try taking home produce you’ve never tried before. Not only can a farmers’ market get you out of an eating rut, it’s a great way to save money and get a bit of weekly exercise!
Use herbs: Fresh herbs like dill, thyme, and rosemary are packed with flavor and highly nutritious. Try keeping herbs in a window box or garden to make sure that they’re always at your fingers, and use them liberally in dishes like roasted vegetables and simple stir-fry. Bonus: you’ll find that fresh herbs are so flavorful that you need less salt when using them.
Get grilling: Haven’t used the grill since the kids lived at home? It’s time to fire it up again. Try marinating vegetables and fish or lean meat in Ziploc bags, then tossing them on the grill for a quick summertime meal. Cleanup is a snap, and you’ll enjoy the fresh air!
Know how to portion: Years of hearing conflicting nutrition advice can make anyone want to throw up their hands in defeat when filling their plate. Luckily, experts have recently simplified things with the MyPlate system. The rule to remember? Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal.
Blend it up: Have trouble eating enough fruit every day? Try blending your own morning smoothie to get your fill first thing in the morning.
Freeze fruit: Worried about overbuying produce at the farmer’s market, only to watch it spoil before you can finish it? Good news: fruit freezes beautifully! Pack Ziploc bags with fruits like strawberries and blueberries. Defrost them later for snacking, or throw them into the blender as-is for a deliciously chilly breakfast smoothie.
It can be tough to eat enough fruits and vegetables for anyone. Growing older can make proper nutrition even more difficult. But summer’s bounty of fruits and vegetables isn’t only healthy, it’s delicious!